Omega to Reintroduce the Iconic Calibre 321

The 2019 Omega Calibre 321

The 2019 Omega Calibre 321

It might be the most famous movement in all of horology, and it’s coming back. On January 8, Omega announced that it’d be introducing the famed Calibre 321 back into production.

The original Calibre 321

The original Calibre 321

Known for its beautifully intricate design, the original Calibre 321 was the first movement ever used in the Omega Speedmaster in 1957. It had, in fact, been previously used in some of Omega’s other chronographs, namely those in the Seamaster collection. It stands out for its use of a monobloc column-wheel, a feature that is machined from a single piece and which adds technical value. Generally, column-wheel movements require very careful precision in design and build, making them popular with watch collectors.

The movement, based on a Lemania ébauche, had been used since the 1940s in other Omega chronograph movements, predominately in the watchmaker’s Seamaster collection, but the last one made at the Omega manufacture was in 1968 (in the ref. ST105.012 and 145.012), when it was replaced by the Calibre 861 in the reference 145.022. As a result, the Calibre 321 has become a sought-after movement by collectors ever since. A Calibre 321 Speedmaster from 1958 sold at Phillips in May of last year for 408,500 CHF ($416,308 at current exchange).

Omega’s press release provides some context for the historical significance of the movement, so we’ll quote it at length:

In addition to its construction, the original Calibre 321 also earned a very notable place in history. It was used in a variety of models including the Speedmaster ST 105.003 (the model first tested and qualified by NASA and worn by astronaut Ed White during the first American spacewalk) and the Speedmaster ST 105.012 (the first watch worn on the moon). 08.01.2019 2/2 For further information, please contact OMEGA Swiss Press Office, Bruno Joly - Rue Jakob-Stämpfli 96 - 2504 Bienne Tel. +41 32 343 93 39 - Fax +41 32 343 94 60 – bruno.joly@omega.ch - www.omegawatches.com OMEGA is a company of the Swatch Group, the largest manufacturer and distributor of watches and jewellery in the world. Reintroducing a movement with such an important reputation must therefore be done with the utmost exactness. For the Calibre 321 project, OMEGA utilised a dedicated team of experts who worked efficiently over two years and in total secrecy to bring the movement to life. The small group was composed of researchers, developers and historians, as well as the finest craftsmen and experienced watchmakers. To protect the project’s exclusive details, the team even worked under the codename “Alaska 11”, in line with the names that OMEGA used for its secret Speedmaster designs for NASA in the 1960s and 70s.

Using the 2nd generation Calibre 321 as a reference, the OMEGA team compiled extensive historical research and original plans to reconstruct the movement as accurately as possible. Going even further, they also used “tomography” technology (digital scanning method) to see inside the true Speedmaster ST 105.003 timepiece that astronaut Eugene “Gene” Cernan wore on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972. Cernan was the last man to walk on the lunar surface and his Speedmaster is now housed at the OMEGA Museum in Bienne. Its Calibre 321 provided the perfect design criteria for OMEGA to follow.

As a result, even the most unique and iconic parts of the Calibre 321 have been reborn in respect to their authentic specifications. The movement wonderfully corresponds to the “moon period” of OMEGA’s history, with a construction that completely respects the designs from the past.

Raynald Aeschlimann, President and CEO of OMEGA, said, “It’s amazing that so many people are passionate about the Calibre 321. We produced the last one in 1968 and fans have never stopped talking about it. That shows how special it is. We’re very excited to finally meet their wishes and have gone to great efforts to bring the movement back.”

The new movements will now go into production at OMEGA’s HQ site in Bienne. Uniquely, all aspects of creation will be undertaken within a dedicated Calibre 321 workshop. For each movement, the assembly, as well as the watch head and bracelet assembly will be performed by the same watchmaker. Watch fans can expect more developments and news in the coming months.


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